Japan’s quake-hit nuclear plant closed for year
TOKYO (AFP) – Japan plans to keep its largest nuclear plant closed for at least a year amid a nationwide scare after it leaked radioactive water following an earthquake, a newspaper said Thursday.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the sprawling Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant northwest of the Japanese capital, has already asked other companies to pitch in to meet the metropolis’s electricity needs in peak summer months.
The Nikkei business daily said the government planned to keep the nuclear plant — the largest in the world — closed for at least a year pending a company review of earthquake safety.
If the study concludes that the facility needs reinforcement, the plant “could be offline for substantially more than a year,” said the newspaper, which did not specify its sources.
Both the industry ministry and the mayor of the quake-hit city of Kashiwazaki have ordered the nuclear facility to stay shut indefinitely.
Tokyo Electric has insisted that Monday’s 6.8 Richter-scale earthquake — which killed 10 people, injured more than 1,000 more and destroyed hundreds of homes — did not cause any dangerous nuclear leaks.
But it has faced a storm of criticism over its reporting of the incident. It admitted underreporting both the radioactivity of a small amount of leaked water and the number of barrels of contaminated clothing that tipped over inside the facility.
The best-selling Yomiuri Shimbun in an editorial Thursday supported nuclear power but said that reactors needed to be reinforced to withstand stronger earthquakes.
If no action is taken, “it would only allow anxiety over the safety over nuclear power stations to prevail among the public,” the daily said.
Japan experiences 20 percent of the planet’s major earthquakes but has increasingly turned to nuclear power as it has virtually no natural energy resources on its own to run the world’s second largest economy.
Senior industry ministry official Akira Fukushima acknowledged Wednesday that Japan, which relies on nuclear energy for a third of its needs, would not shut the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant forever.